The Bulletin Board
Bid to cut unemployment benefits in half fails
The House ultimately agreed to drop its effort reducing unemployment benefits in final negotiations with the Senate. (Getty Images)
Legislation that would have cut unemployment benefits in half unless the state’s unemployment rate reached 8 percent failed Thursday. The rest of Senate Bill 401 passed with $75 million for bridge repairs and police body cameras and dashboard cameras for Department of Transportation vehicles.
As introduced, the bipartisan bill sought to increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate for hospital birthing services by 25 percent. That provision was dropped through a series of amendments and replaced with the $75 million bridge and camera investments.
In early May, the House approved an additional amendment from Republican Reps. Jason Osborne of Auburn and Leonard Turcotte of Barrington that would have halved the duration of unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 13 weeks unless the unemployment rate went above 3 percent, permitting the full 26 weeks only if the state hit 8 percent unemployment.
That’s rarely happened in the last five years, when the rate has most often ranged from about 2.3 percent, the current rate, to 3.6 percent. The pandemic’s early days were an exception, when the rate briefly reached 19 percent.
The House ultimately agreed to drop its effort reducing unemployment benefits in final negotiations with the Senate.
“For the House’s part, we were not willing to sacrifice $75 million in local aid for bridge repair, dash cams for the DOT, and body cams for police over the Senate’s apparent inability or unwillingness to negotiate on a good bill that would save small businesses money in unemployment taxes,” wrote Rep. Terry Roy, a Deerfield Republican, in a final report. He said it’s likely the House will reintroduce legislation next session adjusting unemployment benefits.
“The House remains committed to saving taxpayer money wherever we are able and making systems more efficient whenever we can,” Roy wrote.
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